A batch of 37 female overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) repatriated from Syria, arrive at 4 p.m. Friday (March 7) via EK 332. OWWA personnel and from Office of the Vice President (center photo) assist the returning OFWs upon their arrival at the Gate 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1. (MNS photo)

A batch of 37 female overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) repatriated from Syria, arrive at 4 p.m. Friday (March 7) via EK 332. OWWA personnel and from Office of the Vice President (center photo) assist the returning OFWs upon their arrival at the Gate 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1. (MNS photo)

MANILA, Aug 25 (Mabuhay) — The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a measure granting Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) the right to equal protection on money claims in case their employment abroad has been terminated.

House Bill 5988, authored by Rep. Ibarra M. Gutierrez III and former Rep. Walden F. Bello of Akbayan party-list, seeks to amend the fifth paragraph of Section 10 of RA 8042, as amended by RA 10022, by deleting the clause “or for three months for every year of the unexpired term whichever is less.”

Under the measure, a worker shall be entitled to the full reimbursement of his placement fee and deduction made with interest at 12 percent, per annum in case his employment is terminated without just, valid or authorized cause as defined by law or contract, or there has been any unauthorized deductions from the migrant worker’s salary.

An OFW who has been unjustly laid off from work will also be entitled to receive his salaries for the unexpired portion of his employment contract.

Gutierrez and Bello noted that the original clause in the law which they sought to amend had been declared by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional for violating the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

In the case of “Antonio M. Serrano vs. Gallant Maritime Services, Inc.” G.R. No. 167614 dated March 24, 2009, the SC said the aforementioned provision in the law “singles out one classification of OFWs and burdens it with a peculiar disadvantage” and “is violative of the right of the petitioner and other OFWs to equal protection” because it contains a “suspect classification” imposing a three-month cap on money claims of fixed-term OFWs who have been illegally discharged.

This is even if there is no such cap on the claims of other OFWs or local workers with fixed-term employment.

Despite this ruling, the unconstitutional clause was carried over in the current text of RA 8042, as amended by RA 10022 which Congress passed on July 27, 2009, the lawmakers said. (MNS)